Bluetooth — A connection with Valhalla

The Vikings origins of most popular data transfer system

Bluetooth official logo (Click here for image source)

It all started with a drink, a book about Vikings and three men with a vision. In short, it started like many others stories about changing the world of technology.

Don’t you trust me? Well, I think that Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden, Sven Mattison, senior expert in analog-system design at Ericsson Research, and Jim Kardach of Intel have something very special to tell you.

Nils Rydbeck (Manager, Ericsson Mobile Telephone Laboratory in Lund) and Flemming Örneholm (Manager, Mobile Telephone Operations) (Click here for image source)

In 1989, precisely, Rydbeck was working on the development of wireless headsets, to boost the sales of Ericsson.

Principal design and development began in 1994 and only in 1997, engineers had a workable solution.

Just in 1997, Adalio Sanchez, the head of IBM ThinkPad product R&D, approached Nyls Rydbeck about collaborating on integrating a mobile phone in a ThinkPad notebook. Unfortunately, they came to the conclusion that power consumption on cellphone technology at that time was too high to allow viable integration into a notebook and still achieve adequate battery life. So they agreed to put the Ericsson’ short-link on both, IBM ThinkPad and Ericsson’s phones.

But you probably are wondering: if Ericsson company, in collaboration with IBM ThinkPad, developed this technology, why there are so many agencies that are using this connection system nowadays?

Well at that time, since both Ericsson and IBM ThinkPad notebook were not the market share leaders in their respective markets, Adalio Sanchez and Nyls Rydbeck agreed to make the short-link technology an open industry standard, to permit each player maximum market access.

In May 1998 the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) was launched with IBM and Ericsson as the founding signatories and a total of five members: Ericsson, IBM, Nokia, Intel and Toshiba.

It remains just a little question: why Bluetooth and Vikings are related?

Well, in 1997 Jim Kardach of Intel, one of the founders of the Bluetooth SIG, proposed this name, inspired by a conversation with Sven Mattison, considered the father of the Bluetooth and today senior expert in analog-system design at Ericsson Research.

Sven Mattisson, the father of Bluetooth (Click here for image source)

Jim and Sven were having a drink together and Sven told that he was reading The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson, a historical novel about Vikings and the Danish king HaraldBluetoothGormsson.

Jim proposed Bluetooth as the codename for the short-range wireless program. And, according to Bluetooth’s official website:

Bluetooth was only intended as a placeholder until marketing could come up with something really cool.

Later, when it came time to select a serious name, Bluetooth was to be replaced with either RadioWire or PAN (Personal Area Networking). PAN was the front runner, but an exhaustive search discovered it already had tens of thousands of hits throughout the internet.

A full trademark search on RadioWire couldn’t be completed in time for launch, making Bluetooth the only choice. The name caught on fast and before it could be changed, it spread throughout the industry, becoming synonymous with short-range wireless technology.

Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson (c. 910-c. 987) (Click here for image source)

Bluetooth was the epithet of King Harald who united the disparate Danish tribes into a single kingdom. So Kardach choosed the name to imply that Bluetooth similarly unites communication protocols.

There are many interpretations about the epithet of king Harald I, Bluetooth. Some people say that he had a rotten tooth and the color of his tooth was nearly to blue. But the most accredited hypothesis is that, like many other Vikings at that time, Harald used to paint parts of his body, like the face, the arms and even the teeth.

There have been found humans remains, like skulls, where archeologists noted that teeth had a colour nearly to blue, maybe a natural dye extracted from flowers that Vikings used to scare their enemies.

But, hold on, because curiosities are not over yet.

Bluetooth logo (Click here for image source)

Have you ever noticed how is strange the Bluetooth logo? Well, since Bluetooth was becoming the official name of Ericsson’ short-link and since the relation with Vikings, they decided to put something about North people inside the logo of the new Bluetooth SIG.

And what was better of Vikings runes?

Nordic “H” and Nordic “B” (Click here for image source)

The runes ᚼ and ᛒ, which we see united in the logo, refer to King Harold I, with the H of Harald and the B of Blåtand, blue tooth in Danish. The result is a bind rune, a Migration Period Germanic ligature of two or more runes.

I really think that, at this point, the choice of the background color needs no explanation.

The Bluetooth and its Vikings origins, it’s a beautiful example that building a story behind a brand can help it (and your company as well), to grow up and to become a leader in a particular sector. This, obviously, doesn’t involve just technology and we all should take example from Bluetooth and Ericsson.

Today the bluetooth is used in thousands of devices, you can think to all wireless earphones, or virtual assistant like Alexa or Google, that interact with tons of devices like lights, plugs or even entire electrical systems. Even our smartphones use Bluetooth to communicate with other devices (included smartphones themselves).

In short, Bluetooth became an important part of our lives and it’s unbelievable thinking that it all started from a book and a flash of fantasy.



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